After two embarrassing arrests of local citizens for videotaping police as they carried out official duties, the city of New Haven, Connecticut issued a policy preventing police officers from arresting bystanders who videotaped their actions.
When the state’s Democrats attempted to turn that policy into state law earlier this year, the proposal came under fire from state Republicans, who offered a host of excuses for why a law promoting transparency and openness in law enforcement was a bad idea. Senate Republicans then successfully watered down the bill before it came to a vote, where they were nearly unanimous in their opposition to it. The bill passed the state Senate on June 3 with only one Republican vote, but the state House of Representatives ran out of time before it could vote on the bill.
Less than a month later, an incident in New Haven proved why such efforts to promote transparency in the law enforcement process are so necessary.
On June 23, witnesses in a New Haven neighborhood caught two police officers on film as they brutally and repeatedly assaulted an African-American man in the middle of a neighborhood street. During the attack, one officer repeatedly kicked, punched, and stomped on the victim while the other officer pinned the victim to the ground. The video appears to contradict the official police report, which described the man as violently resisting, kicking, and punching the officers.
When the video became public, the New Haven Police Department announced that its internal affairs division was launching a department-wide probe into the incident.
Watch the attack:
In other states, both federal and state courts have upheld the right of citizens to videotape police officers as they carry out official duties. Many of those arrested for videotaping officers, meanwhile, have either seen their charges dropped or have been acquitted by criminal courts.
Fortunately, the person who videotaped last month’s brutal beating is protected by New Haven’s local policy, but that policy does nothing to protect witnesses to police brutality in other parts of the state. If Connecticut Republicans have their way, those witnesses will remain unprotected indefinitely.